An Air India flight, from Delhi to Surat, turned into a nightmare for Arjuna awardee para-athlete Deepa Malik on Sunday, as the airline allegedly struggled to provide her a with a decent wheelchair despite her reporting at the airport two hours in advance.
Deepa, who is also a recipient of the President’s National Role Model Award, was travelling to Surat to address a women’s empowerment conclave on Sunday. “I had reported two hours ahead of time and introduced myself to the staff. My customized wheelchair isn’t allowed inside the aircraft. The wheelchair provided to me by the airline did not have a foot and arm rest. It didn’t have a belt to support my legs, which is an integral part of any wheelchair,” Deepa said.
She requested the airline staff to arrange for another wheelchair and the one they finally gave her had a problem with one of its wheels. “I used my stole to tie my legs,” she said.
Once on board, she realized the crew wasn’t trained to transfer her to her seat.
Her ordeal wasn’t over yet. At the Surat airport, Deepa alleged, no ramp was provided for her and she was brought down from the plane in a “very horrific manner”.
This posed a problem when she had to board her flight from Surat to Delhi. The staff allegedly didn’t let her board her flight as there was no ramp and her wheelchair would put a lot of weight on the stairs.
Deepa said she somehow managed to board the plane but once she landed in Delhi, she and a senior citizen were made to wait for over an hour as the airline arranged for a wheelchair.
“They could arrange for only one, so I waited while the senior citizen went first. I realised this was the same wheelchair that I had rejected on Sunday,” she said.
“I have a filed a complaint with the airline but I am yet to hear from them,” Deepa said.
When contacted, an AI official said they were not aware of such an incident.